As part of our ongoing educational series, this month we focus on committees, which play an important and substantial role in the legislative process. There are 26 committees in the CT General Assembly, but the majority of animal-related bills often land in the Environment Committee.
You may recall from last month’s newsletter, the 3rd step for a new bill is going to the appropriate joint standing committee of the General Assembly. [Tip: Joint standing means the committee is comprised of both Senate and House members.] Although it’s the 3rd step of the process, this is often the 1st major hurdle a new bill will face on its path to becoming a law. A huge volume of bills is introduced each session, and committees determine which ones to act on, or not. The committee may 1.) have the bill drafted in legal language; 2.) combine it with other bills and have it drafted as a committee bill; 3.) refer the bill to another committee; or 4.) take no action, so the bill fails. The committee may also introduce a fully-drafted bill not based on a proposed bill, called a Raised bill.
Committees hold public hearings for bills they wish to consider. Public hearings are one of the first opportunities constituents have during a legislative session to make their voice heard on the bills they care about. It's an opportunity to speak out against bills that harm animals, and voice support for bills that seek to help animals. It’s here that testimony is shared by members of the public (like you!), state agency representatives, legislators and interested organizations like CVA. We’ll share more about public hearings and testimony in a future newsletter, but for now we will say- it’s a very important step in the process and a great way to get more involved!
From here the committee has the authority to decide the fate of a bill. They may: 1. report the bill favorably (and it moves forward to another committee if necessary, or most often, to the appropriate chamber for consideration), 2. defeat the bill or 3. issue no report (in either of the last 2 cases, the bill fails).
Each committee has a fixed schedule each year to complete all its work. March 28 was the 2019 deadline for the Environment Committee. The remaining time in session is left to prepare bills for debate and passage on the floor of the House and Senate chambers. (Tip: If a bill has a House number, “HB”, it goes to the House of Representatives first. Similarly, if a bill has a Senate number, “SB”, it first goes to the Senate.)